African Boy: An Endangered Species?
While people are quick to rush to the rescue of a girl who is raped, they don’t show the same urgency to a boy who is sodomized, tortured, forced to take drugs or compelled to be a child soldier. A girl child is always considered vulnerable.
|A boy soldier in action Photo courtesy|
The boy child in Africa has for many years benefited from a patriarchal society. He has always been given priority over his female counterpart. There were times when giving birth to a boy meant prosperity and masculinity while having a girl child was a sign of weakness. But that was then. Things have changed.
The number of organizations that advocate for female rights are overwhelming. As the issue of women empowerment gains prominence, the girl child is increasingly climbing the corporate ladder. The boy child, on the other hand, is a neglected and threatened species.
When women look at a man, they want to see security, ability to provide and responsibility. However, very little is being done to mold the boy child to grow up into this ideal ‘man’ that the society expects. Women argue that even when it comes to dating, men are reserved these days.
“They expect us [women] to take the lead. Why can’t they take their leadership position in the society? We want men who can be the heads in our families!” One woman says.
In West Pokot, boys’ education is sacrificed for the sake of livestock. The boy child is introduced to grazing cattle at a tender age of five. He is also taught how to handle the gun to protect his community and livestock. This denies the child his right to education and a better future.
In Kenya’s Central Province, the government is alarmed by the rate at which boys in primary school are opting to abandon school to work in coffee and tea plantations. Chronic alcoholism is also wasting away the male youth in this region. A survey by NACADA in 3500 households shows that the vice has resulted into infertility, reduced sexual activity among couples, low school enrolment and worrying dropout rates. According to the report, alcohol consumption across Central Kenya districts ranges from a low of 51.5 percent for Nyandarua to a high of 75.4 percent in Kirinyaga. Nyeri was among the most affected regions.
Criminal activities among the male youth are high. In 1991, male students in a mixed high school invaded a female dormitory and raped more than 70 girls, leaving 19 others dead. In 1999 a group of male students locked up four students in their cubicles and doused them in petrol killing them instantly. In 2001, 68 students were burnt to death and scores injured by two male students. In 2006, mass rape again approximately 15 girls were raped in the girls school. These impunities might just be a reflection of our society at large.
Recent statistics show that women are crowding up the men in popular MBA classes. According to the statistics from Kenya’s University of Nairobi presented by Dr X. N. Iraki, the MBA coordinator, 46% of those who enrolled for MBA in January and September 2010 intakes were female. The same story is repeated at Daystar University, where more than half of the students in any given MBA class are women.
In Mombasa County, drug abuse has become a major issue among young boys. There are approximately 40 maskani (meaning location in Swahili) where drug abusers meet to share drugs. Bhang smocking has until recently become a drug of choice, but heroin is becoming increasingly popular.
Both boys and girls need to be educated and mentored. We will be going wrong as a Nation if we give so much attention to the girl child and forget that tomorrow will come when will need the boys to become men. There is need for more men to come out as mentors for the boy child, to guide and teach them what is expected of them as they grow up into men. After all we need each other for a healthy nation.
By Emmy Okello
Intern, Inter Region Economic Network (IREN).
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